Crew Conversation: Editor Amy Leland

The final one of these little chats goes to the woman who will have the final say in how this whole little endeavor turns out – editor Amy Leland.

Amy is an editor, writer, and director based in New York who spends her downtime from editing for CBS Sports making her own films and generally being awesome.  I talked to Amy about the art of making people cry and chocolate:

Amy: Let’s rock and roll.

Brendan: Why don’t you tell the good people how we met?

Amy: You and I meet at the first film festival my first film ECHOES got into (the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival). I saw your film THE MAYOR OF ROCK & ROLL and had a blast. You brought an awesome audience into that room. But then you encouraged them to leave just before my film screened. I’ll forgive you for that someday.

Brendan: We needed to go party.  But the Mass Indie Film Fest are good folks. I eventually saw ECHOES at another festival. It was heartbreaking.

Amy: Making people cry – it’s what I do. I think there’s something wrong with me for enjoying it so much. But when I’m sitting in a dark room, and start to hear people sniffle, I think, “Yes!”

Brendan: You’re a sadistic fuck.

Amy: It’s part of why I love the script you’ve written so much. There is a lot of humor in it, sure. But it really has a lot of heart in it. I just love good stories. And I love helping to tell good stories. So when I read your script, I knew I wanted to help tell it. I’m a little disappointed that you want to direct it yourself instead of letting me do it, but I understand why you do. But editing is, for me, such an integral part of the storytelling that getting to collaborate with you in that way is also a great way to get to bring this story to life.

Brendan: Editing is the most important part. It’s like writing the story all over again, really.

Amy: It’s funny because as a director, I generally edit my own stuff. But that’s something I’ve been wanting to break away from. I really want that partnership with another storyteller to be the second set of eyes. And I’ve been that second set of eyes for other directors as an editor. The director/editor relationship is a great collaboration, and I love being part of it.

Brendan: It’ll definitely be different than the sports editing you do for your day job.

Amy: Oh, yes. Very different from sports editing. “You want a football highlight? Okay, here you go – Touchdown! Hero shot! Touchdown! Hero shot! Touchdown! Hero shot! And pad to break…”  I actually wrote the first draft of my first feature screenplay almost entirely while on sports editing shifts. Late night studio shifts during college basketball season. It was great. We’d cover a game, then I’d write some pages while waiting for our next assignment.

Brendan: Got to love the accommodating day job.

Amy: I imagine for you, getting to direct this story is important because it is so personal. How are you feeling about that aspect of it going into it? Any particular things you’re doing as part of your preparation so you can be the objective director while also bringing all of the personal elements to the story?

Brendan: I think the biggest thing I’m doing to prepare is trusting my team. I don’t think of this as “my” movie or vision. Letting go is usually the hardest part for me, but I’ve got a great bunch of actors and crew to bring more to it than what’s in my head.

Amy: For me, that’s a great strategy as a director even when the story isn’t so personal, so I applaud that. I always describe the job of director as, “Hire the best people for the jobs, and then let them do their jobs.” The feature script I wrote is also based on some very personal family stuff. But to make the story more dramatic, I had to fictionalize what happened enough that now it’s almost a story about other people. So it’s personal, but I also have some objectivity. Was there some of that for you?

Brendan: Yeah, the movie version is much more dramatic and interesting than anything that actually happened to me. My real life is a big ol’ ball of boring.

Amy: I think we always feel our own lives are boring because whatever the obstacles were, we’ve survived them well enough to sit down and write about them. So of course we want an audience to get a more interesting version than what we lived.

Brendan: What are your hopes for this movie?

Amy: That it gets nominated for an Oscar for the editing, of course! Honestly, I hope we all tell a great story that entertains and moves people and that we find a way for as much of an audience as possible to see it.

Brendan: I’ll buy you one of those little foil covered chocolate Oscars when you’re done.

Amy: I’m going to hold you to that. I need to have that written into my contract.

Help Amy get that chocolate Oscar by supporting the SUNDOWN Kickstarter page.

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